Finley has both learning and physical disabilities and is non-verbal.

Josie, a POhWER advocate, was asked by his social worker to visit Finley to get his views and wishes on a safeguarding matter. Finley was being hoisted when a staff member noticed that the hoist was not on correctly, and Finley was extremely distressed. One member of staff calmed him and then used his communication aids to ask what was wrong. Finley said that the other staff member had hurt him. There were no visible injuries and Finley did not think it was intentional.

When Josie went to meet Finley, she ensured that he had his communication aids before introducing herself to him and explaining why she was there to see him, her role as his advocate, and what that meant.

Josie told Finley that she understood he had been hurt whilst being hoisted and wanted to get his views on this. Finley would not look at the communication aids and became distressed, waving his arms around and turning his head from side to side. Josie told Finley she would give him some time. The carer then counted down from 10 and this made Finley smile.

Once Finley had calmed, Josie asked if there was a better way to communicate with him apart from his communication aids. The carer suggested providing ‘yes’ and ‘no’ hands, so Josie could ask the questions and Finley would choose one of the carer’s hands, one for ‘Yes’ and the other for ‘No’.  

Josie asked if Finley was happy to communicate this way, the carer held up her right hand and said ‘No’ hand, then held up her left hand and said “Yes’ hand. Finley raised his fist and touched her left (Yes) hand.

Josie began to ask Finley some questions:

  • Finley are you happy here? He indicated ‘No’.
  • Do you feel safe here? He indicated to ‘No’.

The carer swapped hands to see if Finley would still pick the same hand. The carer appeared surprised when Finley maintained his previous responses, even though these were on the carer’s opposite hands, commenting “he clearly means no, I wanted to check if he was just hitting the same hand.”

Josie asked further questions, reminding Finley which hand was yes/no:

  • Finley are you able to express your feelings to the staff? ‘No’.
  • Do you feel listened to by the staff? ‘Yes’.
  • Finley if you had not been hurt when you were hoisted would you feel safe? ‘Yes’.
  • Are the people kind to you here? ‘Yes’.

Josie asked again if he was happy living at his current care home and he indicated ‘No’. Josie thanked Finley for answering and wrote to his social worker describing her conversation with Finley.

The social worker asked Josie to join her on a visit. She wanted Josie to communicate with Finley as she had on her last visit so they could see his answers.

At the joint visit, Josie re-introduced herself to Finley and explained that she and the social worker wanted to ask him some questions to get his views and wishes. Josie then held up her hands and showed him which was ‘yes’ and ‘no’ before asking:

  • “Finley, do you remember me?” ‘Yes’.
  • “Can we ask you some questions?” ‘Yes’.

Josie then asked the questions the social worker wanted to know (reminding him how to respond yes/no):

  • “Finley are you happy here?” ‘No’.

Finley became slightly distressed, so she used the technique the carer had shown her and began counting back from 10 which made him laugh and relax his body.

  • “Finley do you feel safe here?” he indicated ‘No’.

Josie told Finley she was going to swap hands and showed him yes and no were now opposite. She repeated the questions, and his answers remained the same.

She then asked him:

  • “Would you like to live somewhere else?” ‘Yes’.
  • “Finley would you like to live closer to mum?” ‘Yes’.

The social worker said, “this is just what I needed to see” and thanked Finley for answering the questions and left the room.

Finley again became distressed and made unhappy sounds. Josie began counting backwards again and he laughed and took her hand in his. She then counted again and missed out a number which he found very funny and giggled.

Josie told Finley that the social workers were going to have a meeting to find him a suitable placement closer to his mum. She thanked him for his time and said goodbye.

The social worker later told Josie that her interaction with Finley had given them more information in just a few minutes than anything else they had previously tried. The social worker then told Josie that she was going to write up her report based on Finley’s responses and pass it to a social worker from Finley’s hometown who would look for suitable placement options so Finley could move closer to his mum.

Once some options have been found Finley will be able to see these and have his say on which option he would prefer using the same communication method.